The Arts Are Needed Now More Than Ever

Rebecca Louise Law (British, b. 1980), The Womb, 2019, Frederick Meijer Sculpture Park and Gardens. Photography by Scott Rasmussen. Above: Après ski ensemble with Pucci ski pants and Baruffaldi snow glasses, 1950s, © FIDM Museum, Courtesy American Federation of Arts, Photo: Brian Davis.

There has been great uncertainty across the world recently, where things many have previously taken for granted — health, food, financial security — are no longer as secure as they seemed, while those who were already experiencing hardship find themselves struggling more. With all this as a backdrop, the arts might seem like a low priority. I would counter that the arts are needed now more than ever, not only to help us reflect but also to provide moments of peace and respite in this ever-changing world. Visual artists, poets, musicians, and other cultural leaders across time have used art as a means for processing their circumstances, and today is no different. At the Cummer Museum, we strive to be the place in Jacksonville where the community connects art to their everyday lives. By framing our special exhibitions, our permanent collection, and our gardens within the context of contemporary issues, this hopefully provides new perspectives on familiar and unfamiliar concepts. 

One impact of COVID-19 not readily apparent has been the need for museums around the world to readdress exhibitions currently scheduled for 2020 and beyond as travel restrictions forced the suspension of art transport and prohibited many institutions from welcoming visitors. We worked hard to maintain our planned exhibitions, but altered the sequence in which they will be presented. Additionally, we created many virtual ways you can continue to connect with the museum, from at-home art instruction to virtual lectures (for more information see cummermuseum.org/engage). 

Après ski ensemble with Pucci ski pants and Baruffaldi snow glasses, 1950s, © FIDM Museum, Courtesy American Federation of Arts, Photo: Brian Davis.

I hope the following look at our upcoming schedule and virtual offerings provides you with a glimmer of excitement in this moment of uncertainty. 

Because of our combination of fine art and historic gardens, the museum is uniquely poised to consider the permeability between art and nature, including also the relationship between art inside the building and the living art gallery along the St. Johns River. To further explore this interdependence, the Cummer Museum will be the first venue to host the nationally touring exhibition “Cross Pollination: Martin Johnson Heade,  Frederic Church, Thomas Cole, and Our Contemporary Moment,” created by The Olana Partnership at Olana State Historic Site, Thomas Cole National Historical Site, and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, with its tour organized by Crystal Bridges. Opening in September, earlier than originally planned, this interdisciplinary exhibition explores the systems of pollination within nature and ecology, as well as the metaphorical cross pollination of ideas between arts and between art and science. Likewise,

Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904), Hooded Visorbearer, c. 1863-1864, Oil on canvas, Crystal Bridges, Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2006.93, 12 1/4 × 10 in., Photography by Dwight Primiano.

“Eclectic Ecology: Landscape Perspectives from Ponce de León to Florida Man,” assembled largely from the museum’s permanent collection, will now remain on view until mid-2021. Looking farther into the future, this theme will continue as “Rebecca Louise Law: The Journey” takes over the Mason Gallery in July 2021, forming an immersive visitor experience among dried and fresh plant materials that explores the relationship between humanity and nature. 

Art Ventures, presented in conjunction with The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, will highlight incredible artists from our area who have received Art Ventures grants throughout the program’s 30- year history. Opening mid-January, this exhibition will be an opportunity to celebrate artists, because they make our community special. 

Read MoreBy Holly Keris

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